No exaggeration, Titans: Rebirth was one of my favorite one-shots of the past few months. It was well-written and solidly illustrated, continuing the intriguing premise of Rebirth itself while delivering some genuinely emotional moments. Seriously, the scene where Dick remembered his best friend was almost as gut-wrenching as Barry’s realization that Wally had returned. It was comforting and heartfelt, a warm welcome back for a character that had meant so much to so many who had all but disappeared.
A single issue in to the series proper, however, and things just feel… off. And that’s a shame.
Starting with the positives: Wally West is back. I can not stress enough how happy that makes me, and how momentous an occasion it truly is. After Crisis on Infinite Earths ended back in 1986, Wally was the Flash. For twenty years he carried the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster, and while he certainly interacted with other characters with connections to the Speed Force and, in some cases, had gone by the same name at one time or another, he was the one and only Flash for many readers. Where Barry Allen was… let’s say very average (read: boring), Wally was more lively and outgoing, with just as much history behind him thanks to his time as Kid Flash.
And history is probably the greatest thing that Wally represented, as he perfectly emobodied the idea of legacy in the DC Universe. Pulling in characters like Max Mercury and Jay Garrick made the whole world feel bigger and more lived in, using a guy like Wally who grew up around and then grew into a superhero to bridge entire generations. It’s one of the most important traits DC had that was all but lost in recent years, so having the Flash who represented an entire generation of fans return reinforces the stated desire to bring back legacy.
Plus, he was the Flash on Justice League, and that led to this scene:
Seriously, top five best scenes in a DC animated show, no contest.
With Wally’s return comes the need to figure out the mystery of his disappearance, and that’s where this issue starts to fall apart. It’s not that things don’t make sense or that anything’s really bad, it’s just that the pacing is all over the place. There’s another recap of the events in Rebirth, a good amount of time spent in Dick Grayson’s loft, a random excursion to track down a gang member/get pizza, and a magic show at a birthday party.
Like I said, it’s all over the place.
First and foremost, Dr. Manhattan’s role in the “time theft” that Wally was involved in is on the back-burner, and that’s honestly a good idea. That’s a mystery that should simmer slowly and be executed deftly, so it’s best not to rush things. Instead of diving head-first into finding those answers, Dan Abnett instead focuses on the more personal losses felt by the Titans, and those of Wally in particular. Abnett has a decent handle on these characters, as there are a few scenes of good chemistry and a line of dialogue here and there that truly pops, but he spends most of his time rehashing an issue that was already a rehashing of the team’s history and the purpose of the book. It’s a slow burn, sure, but almost too slow.
The question of how Wally came back takes a backseat to a new question Lilith poses while probing Wally’s mind:
Wally’s heartache and longing for a woman who doesn’t know him is moving and effective, but it isn’t given much attention here. Instead, we get a prolonged scene where Roy (whose glasses further prove that they are bound and determined to make him look as silly as possible) and Donna fight some thugs for some answers and leads, and then the introduction to our villain: an overweight magician slumming it by working at kids’ birthday parties.
I am not kidding.
See, Mr. Hocus Pocus is just trying to make an honest living when Lilith’s interference with Wally’s memories sparks something in the magician, transforming him from a kind of shlubby old man into a rail thin maniac. How do we know this guy is insane? His first “trick” is to transport everyone at the party to the moon, almost allowing them to suffocate.
It’s a terrible, terrible pun, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh a little at how crazy it was.
It turns out this guy is actually Abra Kadabra, a magician from the future who is so upset that technological advancements make magic tricks seem old hat that he goes back in time just to be a jerk.
A jerk with magic.
That dude’s mustache goes from amazing to ridiculous and all the way back around again. Not going to lie, I’m kind of jealous.
If the plot is all over the place, the art doesn’t help matter much either. Brett Booth swings between pretty great and really sloppy between panels, let alone pages, which adds to the inconsistency of the storytelling. His redesigned costume for Wally looks great, and I love the larger blue wings on Nightwing as opposed to how thin they look elsewhere, but the quality swings back and forth too much; for every nice little touch like Wally grabbing a pizza mid-sentence, there’s a weird pose or weirder face that keeps this from being a great looking book.
As far as introductory issues go, this could be a lot worse, but it should have been a lot better. Now that the mysteries are out there and the characters are together, hopefully the creative team can find a good groove and deliver a quality team book.
Bonus: I’m a sucker for a good variant cover, and this one from Mike Choi is gorgeous.
- You want to see Wally West back in action.
- You enjoyed Rebirth and want to follow that mystery, albeit slowly.
Overall: Flawed, but with enough strengths to make it worth reading, this series has a lot of potential. There are likeable characters, the draw of the team name, and some intriguing mysteries that are worth exploring, and it’s hard to fault a first issue for not giving everything you want to see. Still, with some sloppy writing and even sloppier artwork, what could have been a great start to the return of the Titans instead feels like a mess. It’s fine, but it should have been more.